With Great Cleavage Comes Great Responsibility
A couple of months ago, I was at a house party. A couple of guys I was with started commenting on the appearance of a woman sitting across the room. She was wearing what they considered to be a very inappropriate shirt—a low-cut v-neck that revealed what registered to them as an obscene level of cleavage. They were speculating as to why a woman would wear such a shirt in public and what her intentions were in putting it on. "If I were wearing that same shirt, it wouldn't seem inappropriate at all," I noted. Of course, it wasn't really the shirt—it was the size of the woman's breasts that was deemed socially unacceptable.
Big boobs: I don't have them. And good thing, too, because if I did, I'd have to dress myself with the expectation that others would view my anatomy as inherently obscene. This week, plus-size clothing company Lane Bryant accused FOX and ABC of refusing to air its latest lingerie commercial over decency concerns. The central objection? Lane Bryant's well-endowed underwear models revealed cleavage that was just too ample. The low-down, from Ad Week:
In a post on LB's Inside Curve blog, the company complains that "ABC and Fox have made the decision to define beauty for you by denying our new, groundbreaking Cacique commercial from airing freely on their networks." . . . The post also claims that ABC "restricted our airtime" and refused to air the spot during Dancing With the Stars, while Fox "demanded excessive re-edits and rebuffed it three times before relenting to air it during the final 10 minutes of American Idol, but only after we threatened to pull the ad buy."
The post continues: "Yes, these are the same networks that have scantily-clad housewives so desperate they seduce every man on the block—and don't forget Bart Simpson, who has shown us the moon more often than NASA—all in what they call 'family hour.'"
The ad depicts several attractive, plus-sized models in the latest line of Lane Bryant lingerie. Ample cleavage—which Bryant says was a problem for the nets—is on display in the ad. "The networks exclaimed, 'She has . . . cleavage!' Gasp!'' the blog post states.
Ah, "ample cleavage"—not to be confused with the socially acceptable amount of cleavage displayed by Victoria's -Secret-sized models, who generally possess large—but apparently not obscenely large—breasts. Fox and ABC didn't respond to Ad Week's request for comment; Lane Bryant has since removed the accusatory post from its blog, Inside Curve, but it still touts the offending ad on its website as "The Lingerie Commercial Fox and ABC Didn't Want Its Viewers to See."
The lesson, ladies, is that great cleavage comes with great responsibility. People who shame women for wearing "too-revealing" clothes like to center their objections on women's clothing "choices," but make no mistake—this is not about what we choose. This is about the things we don't choose—having chests or butts or legs or necks or hair or any other part of our human bodies that others decide to project their particular sexual interests—and their slut-shaming—upon. The man who is horrified at a woman's "overly exposed" breasts will likely never have to worry about wearing one shirt—one shirt out of a lifetime of shirts—that happens to accidentally set off some random person's slut meter, because of the way his body just is. And because my breasts are smaller, less visible, less imposing than other women's breasts—because there's less boob there—I can feel free to wear the more revealing top without attracting claims of public obscenity. It seems that some women's bodies are just naturally sluttier than other women's bodies—and all women's bodies are naturally sluttier than men's bodies.